Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Our first four homegroup meetings are on the book of Jonah. A simple, delightful story, which even people outside the church in a thoroughly post-Christian world will have heard of ("and the whale"). Two particularly interesting points...

(1) In Jonah 2 we have a 'psalm', sung at some point during the three days&nights Jonah was in the fish - perhaps even right before he was spat out, as the transition between verses 10 and 11 allows if not implies. It bears comparison with Psalm 18 (of David), another Psalm of deliverance.

In David's Psalm the distress of being surrounded and hounded by human enemies is compared to th experience of [drowning] in deep waters (verse 16). Look at the descriptions of God's salvation, however... In David's Psalm they are rich metaphors, full of drama, requiring a whole digital studio for rendering them in convincing CGI (flying on cherubim, fire, coals, laying bare the seabed, reaching down from heaven, blasts of breath, etc) - in Jonah's Psalm they are almost absent. Instead we have the thoroughly prosaic notes in 1:17 and 2:11 regarding a fish gulping the prophet down and later vomiting him onto dry land. Jonah is definitely mocking Jonah here. Is it an angel, is a divine flame? No, it's a floating stomach.

(2) As pointed out to me on Sunday, when it comes to Jonah in the New Testament we have some awkward corners. What is "the sign of Jonah"? And why is Peter called Simon, son of John in John 1:42 but Simon, son of Jonah in Matthew 16:17.

I wonder whether it's something to do with the sign of Jonah itself. If the sign of Jonah includes in it the idea that repentant Gentiles will receive mercy denied to faithless Jews, then Jesus calling Peter 'son of Jonah' in Matthew 16 is a hint at his future ministry to Gentiles (which was not numerically significant compared to Paul's, but he was the apostle who welcomed Cornelius into the church). In other words, his Dad was called John.